LOMBARD – Nazareth junior Gracie Christensen backpedaled after swishing her third consecutive 3-pointer and turned to teammate Grace Workman, who just smiled and nodded.
It was that kind of morning for the Roadrunners, who raced out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back in beating Huntley 45-27 on Thursday on the final day of the Montini Christmas Tournament.
Christensen, who led all scorers with 15 points, sank five 3-pointers for the Roadrunners (13-1), who went 3-0 at the tournament after having their first game cancelled when their opponent was one of five teams to withdraw due to COVID protocols.
“She’s got confidence,” Nazareth coach Eddie Stritzel said of Christensen. “She worked hard in the off-season on her strength and she’s doing a great job.”
Stritzel actually was concerned that Nazareth would struggle in the early going even though Huntley (8-4) was playing without three starters and dressed only seven players.
“You never know with the fourth day of a Christmas tournament,” Stritzel said. “We played so well yesterday against Whitney Young (a 57-42 win).
“I was worried that we’d come out with a lack of energy for an 11:30 game, so I talked to the kids all morning about it and I thought the first half was just sensational.”
Indeed, the Roadrunners sank 7 of their first 10 shots. Workman began the game by taking a pass from Amalia Dray and scoring on a layup, and then Dray drove the lane for a basket.
Christensen followed with three straight 3s, after which Huntley coach Steve Raethz used his second timeout.
“I didn’t play super well the first few games,” Christensen said. “I felt like we moved the ball a bit better this game.
“A lot of people got a lot more open shots than we had against Burlington (in a 32-28 win on Tuesday).”
That included Dray, who sank her first five shots and scored all 12 of her points in the first half. She also had four steals.
“I haven’t been scoring as much as I should be in the past games, so I’ve been putting in extra work and shooting more,” said Dray, who is one of Nazareth’s three sophomore starters. “I’m getting more open shots and finishing better.”
Stritzel is pleased to see that because it gives his talented team yet another scoring weapon.
“She’s a great athlete,” Stritzel said. “She’s a great defensive player and she’s starting to give us consistent double figures.
“That’s going to make us better, so we can afford an off night from [Danielle] Scully or Workman.”
The University of Chicago-bound Workman didn’t need to do much scoring, or even much shooting, against the Red Raiders. She took four shots and finished with four points, but also had three rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
Both of Workman’s assists came on 3-pointers by Christensen, who sank her fourth 3, a 25-footer with a hand in her face, to beat the halftime buzzer and give Nazareth a 31-11 cushion.
“We just had to get a shot up,” Christensen said. “I felt like it was just a little bit lucky, maybe.”
There was nothing lucky about the victory, however. Christensen sank another 3 and Dray followed with a layup to extend the lead to 39-14 in the third quarter.
“We wanted to keep our lead because we saw them come back against York and we knew we had to stay focused,” Christensen said. “That was probably what kept us going during halftime.”
Raethz was pleased with how the Red Raiders kept battling despite the big deficit. Samantha Campanelli had eight points and three steals and Anna Campanelli added six points for Huntley, which went 1-3 in the tournament and has lost starting point guard Nicole Flaherty for the season with a torn ACL.
“I’m really happy with how our kids competed over the course of those four days,” Raethz said. “It wasn’t the outcome we wanted.
“Obviously, Nazareth has a lot to do with that. They are a phenomenal team, well-coached and solid at all five spots.
“I thought our kids did a better job of regrouping in the second half and playing a little bit better defensively. They played hard.”